If you can bring me to tears through the written word then you have my respect. It is a genuine skill to convey the energy and feeling required to evoke such sadness, elation or relief out of your words. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one such author that does this for me every time I read one of her books. She is also a very talented public speaker. I highly recommend her TEDTalks, We Should All be Feminists and The Danger of a Single Story.
I also appreciate a book that skillfully allows me to experience this world in a way I could not imagine myself. Chimamanda achieves this for me too. Born in Nigeria, Chimamanda sought her tertiary education in American and now lives between Nigeria and the U.S. She educates while she entertains, she is fiery and passionate while being considered and demonstrative of kindness and compassion. She builds her narratives in such a way that the loss of her characters’ is your loss; their joy is yours.
I am a white Australian girl who grew up in a relatively small country town. For me, reading stories about people experiencing a different life to mine is good for me. I get to read how people from other cultures experience and demonstrate their love and what trials exist in relationships outside of my own lived experience. I get to read about the shared experiences we all go through and realise I’m not that special in my experience. I think that too is a good thing.
The Western world has a strong tendency to think our way is the only way. We tend to come to the table with a framework, tool or methodology that we are convinced will work because it is evidence based and therefore foolproof. There is a particularly humbling part of Half of a Yellow Sun where an English man living in Nigeria and writing about historical sites and findings seems to see them almost as an oddity, a specimen to be studied. His genuine innocence, fascination and excitement in another culture’s history is interpreted by the people of that culture as condescending and unintentionally assumptive of a lesser intelligence or advancement.
I think what Chimamanda’s work does is to invite a shared humanity. To be curious about other people and the lives they are experiencing without being demeaning or diminishing. To share experiences and to put care into how you communicate with people who may seem ‘different’ to you. To open dialogues between each other and encourage community through kindness. I envy her eloquence and love getting lost in her words.
Thank you to the following sites: